I haven’t posted in a while, and I need to change that. Recently, the debatable topic of “does the end justify the means” has been creeping its way back into my life again. Coincidentally, I found (while digging through my old work, of course) an essay that I wrote a few years ago debating that very topic. So enjoy, and please feel free to comment & give constructive criticism!
Topic: The end justifies the means.
The end does not justify the means. We are only justified when the means that we use to reach our goals are just as good as the end result. Some examples of this are murdering your father in order to acclaim the throne, the faults behind the 9/11 attack, and cheating on a test in order to get a good mark.
Have you ever read one of those 16th – century novels where there are dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, kings and queens? Well, imagine yourself in that time. Think about how it must feel to be watching your father (say that he was the king at the time) and wishing with all your might that you could acclaim the throne. (Even though you know it won’t happen, because you’re a girl). Imagine watching your greedy brother murder your very own father. How would you feel? Would you think, Oh, it doesn’t matter because being a king is a great honour and it doesn’t matter what he did in order to become king. I’m assuming that this would not be the case. Most likely you’d be thinking to yourself: That’s terrible! How can he become king by murdering my father? That’s not just. He shouldn’t have the right to become king. Even though the people will accept him as king, everyone would know deep down that the way he got there wasn’t good at all. And they would pretend to like him, but continue secretly hating him in their hearts. For things like that can’t sneak away, even after many, many years unnoticed. If her brother had waited to become king, rather than murdering his own father to become king, then the means that he used to get to the end would’ve been better and the people would most likely have accepted him.
As you probably already know, Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. It must have been great for the Muslims that followed Bin Laden to have watched an American landmark go up into flames just like they had planned, so the end was good for them. Let’s think about the means that they used to get to that end. Suicidal pilots. Hundreds of people dying. In my opinion, those are not the best ways to reach a goal. Sure, they did what they wanted to do, but the way they got there was not good at all.
Any students caught cheating on any test/exam will receive a mark of 0 and the administration will be notified. Have you ever heard that statement before, or remembered something like it from your childhood days when you were at school? And, worst of all – have you ever given in to that temptation, the temptation to cheat on a test in order to get a good mark and make your parents ‘happy’? (That is, until they find out that you cheated, which they most likely will). Let’s think about what you did in detail. Your end was getting a good mark on the test. Okay. Sounds excellent! But what were your means? How did you reach that end? You cheated. Notice the opening statement to this paragraph. You got a good mark on the test, but does that really matter? No, not when you cheated, because you didn’t really understand the material – even though you got a good mark. That’s why even though the end was great, the means weren’t. And, in this case, that’s what matters.
In conclusion, I think that how you get to the end matters more than the end itself. Notice that in my very first example I’ve determined that if your brother murdered your father to claim the throne you’d be thinking that it wasn’t just. That’s because, even though he did something great and the whole court should be proud of him, he got to that high position in a bad way, so instead of everyone adoring him, they despise him. Not a good way to go.